Is The Notorious “Killer Bee” Species A Threat To Residents Of Ventura County?

More than 1,600 native bee species inhabit California, but the most commonly sighted bees in the state are not native to the country. This bee species is commonly known as the European honey bee, and you can guess where they originated. European honey bees were first introduced to California back in 1853, and today, the state is a major source of honey. While honey bees are beloved for their ability to produce honey, they swarm from their hives once every year, causing fear among those who encounters these masses of airborne venomous insects. Purebred European honey bees are not particularly aggressive, and as long as humans avoid disturbing their hives, bees will not likely inflict stings. However, people who spot honey bee swarms in southern California may have good reason to become fearful, as many honey bees in the region are hybrids of European and Africanized honey bee species. These bees are often referred to as “killer bees,” and they are well established within Ventura County where nests are sometimes found within homes and buildings.

Africanized bees originate from Africa, and their presence in southern California is due to a 1956 breeding program in Brazil that saw the aggressive bees escape from a breeding site before traveling into the US in 1990. Africanized honey bees entered southern California in 1994, and the state follows Arizona, New Mexico and Texas as the state containing the largest Africanzied bee population of all US states. Around 100 people die each year from Africanized bee attacks in the US, and this species’ introduction into the country has made honey bees the most deadly insects to humans in the US. Africanized bee attacks are not uncommon on residential properties in southern California, as a woman in a populated neighborhood in the state sustained 200 stings after brushing against a bush that contained a nest. This disturbed the bees, causing a swarm of 80,000 Africnaized bees to defensively emerge from the nest. The County of Ventura does not have an Africanized bee program that controls the bees when they are spotted in the county.

Have you ever spotted a honey bee swarm?